Celtics Win Big in Possible Playoff Preview

Celtics Win Big in Possible Playoff Preview

March 7, 2002

When the tape of last night's game gets labeled and filed into the Celtics' vast video collection, the team might want to break with tradition. Instead of stamping it with the date and opponent, they could title it "Coming Attractions." As the Eastern Conference stands, the game between No. 4 Boston and No. 5 Orlando was a possible preview of a first-round playoff matchup. The Celtics certainly did not forget that, and it showed in their play.

   They have talked about treating their remaining regular-season games like playoff games. Boston can only hope the feature presentation turns out as well as the prologue. The Celtics routed the Magic, 130-110, setting a season-high mark for points. For that matter, it was the Celtics' best offensive performance since they scored 131 points against Vancouver in a triple-overtime game Feb. 17, 1999. Boston also placed nine players in double digits for the first time this year and only the seventh time in franchise history. Coincidentally, it was another blowout of Orlando when Larry Bird and Co. accomplished the feat March 4, 1992.

"I think we can be one of the top five or 10 teams in the NBA offensively," said Paul Pierce. "It hasn't shown over this year because we have done things [we need to do] on a consistent basis. We can start turning things around with how we share the ball. The main thing with this ball club is nobody cares about the statistics. We just say, 'Let's go out here and get a win.' "

The win gave the Celtics the tiebreaker (3-1) against the Magic, should the teams finish with identical records, and showed what adding proven offensive threats Tony Delk (13 points) and Rodney Rogers (16) could mean. It was a glimpse of how versatile Boston can be - big or small, as productive on the fast break as from 3-point range.

"The way it happened tonight is the way we're going to try and run things," said Rogers. "I hope we can score 130 points every night. It shows how dominant we are and how strong we can be with all the scorers sharing the ball and playing defense. We have so many weapons it's going to be hard for teams to match up to us . . . You see how we played tonight. It's just a shame then that nights where we don't play like this, you wonder what in the world is going on. This is the way we should play every night."

Besides a brief lull at the end of the second quarter when the Magic cut their deficit to 8 points and entered halftime trailing, 64-54, the Celtics were the picture of efficiency on offense. Their defense wasn't bad, either, as they kept such dangerous scorers as Tracy McGrady (17 points), Pat Garrity (16), and Darrell Armstrong (16) from getting hot. Boston was so dominating Orlando coach Doc Rivers called the contest a "throwaway game," knowing very early his team could not compete.

Most nights, Rivers likes to let his team run. But at the end of a seven-game road trip (the longest in franchise history) and in the second of back-to-back contests, Rivers knew a fast-paced game would hurt the Magic. He was right, as Boston opened with a 17-5 run and never looked back. The offense was clicking with such efficiency that the Celtics finished the first just 2 points shy of a season high for points in a quarter, with 39. After a sloppy second quarter, the Celtics did not wait to reestablish a commanding lead in the third, spreading the floor and hitting 3-pointers with ease.

Boston went 7 for 9 from the arc in the third, but what was perhaps more impressive was that five players made at least one 3-pointer in the period, including Antoine Walker (16 points), Pierce (22), Kenny Anderson (13), Erick Strickland (12), and Delk. The Celtics stretched their lead to a game-high 27 points (121-94) midway through the fourth, largely leaving the task of finishing up to the reserves.

"They're playing well now," said Rivers. "Half of them are probably not on the same page yet [because of the trade]. You have to get used to different guys making shots. It's going to take time. By playoff time, they're going to be dan-ger-ous."

March 7, 2002

News Flash: Antoine Walker acknowledges that the acquisition of Rodney Rogers and Tony Delk, and the Celtics' emphasis on spreading out the offense, will give him fewer attempts each game.

Real News Flash: Walker doesn't mind.

   Last night, as Boston blew out Orlando, 130-110, and placed nine players in double figures, Walker was 5 for 11 from the field. Circle the number 11. It was the fewest shots Walker has attempted in a game this season. His previous low was against Detroit Jan. 11, when he went 1 for 14. Paul Pierce went 6 for 11 against the Magic, though that did not beat his season low of 10 attempts, in the same Detroit game. Kenny Anderson finished with the most attempts, going 6 for 12.

"We've been a team in the past, especially in the last two years, that has been dominated by me and Paul," said Walker. "To finally be able to get nine guys in double figures is a great thing. Every night's going to be different. But with us, me and Paul, you're going to see our shot attempts come down. I'm not saying dramatically, but it's going to be a situation where we believe in each other and we believe other guys can step up and score for us. Oh yeah, [it's fine to have fewer attempts]. I'm just trying to win, man. There's 22 games left. It's all about W's right now."

General manager Chris Wallace was not surprised by the offensive depth the Celtics showed. "It was tremendous," said Wallace. "I remember looking up and we were around 100 points and Paul and Antoine had scored like 30 something at that point. It was great. Everybody seemed to feed off of each other. There's been a lot of strides made integrating [Delk and Rogers] into the team here over the last five days." Raging Rivers

Orlando coach Doc Rivers arrived in Boston $7,500 poorer, but certainly got his money's worth protesting the officiating during Tuesday's Magic-Pacers game. Stu Jackson, NBA vice president of basketball operations, announced yesterday that Rivers was fined for failing to leave the court in a timely manner following his fourth-quarter ejection and publically criticizing referees Violet Palmer, Mike Callahan, and Ron Garretson. "It was one of the worst officiated games I've ever seen," said Rivers, following the 111-98 loss at Indianapolis. "I thought it was horrible. If [the play on] Darrell Armstrong wasn't a charge, I haven't seen a charge. If Jermaine O'Neal was not grabbing Darrell by the face, I've never seen a foul. If I can see that from the bench, you can't tell me the officials can't see that. They just decided we're not going to make any calls. I had to get it [the fine] the way they were treating Darrell. I felt it wasn't right. Tracy [McGrady] was frustrated all night, and Darrell was out of his mind. We got bad calls. It absolutely had an effect on the game." . . . Horace Grant did not dress because of back spasms . . . The Magic are finishing a seven-game road trip, the longest in franchise history . . . Tony Battie missed his second game with lower leg swelling. The Celtics hope he will be ready for tomorrow's contest vs. Detroit.

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